2:00PM Water Cooler 11/24/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Three minutes long, so prepare coffee if you have not already done so.

* * *


Vaccination by region:

Still chugging along. (I have also not said, because it’s too obvious, that if by Bubba we mean The South, then Bubba has done pretty well on vax.)

59% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of November 22. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Czech Republic, and just above Panama in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). Oddly, a 0.2% drop; I can’t remember seeing one before.

Case count by United States regions:

Looks like an upward blip to me, so I have added a black “Fauci Line” to avoid triumphalism.

At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)

* * *

One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). Here is the current version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above:

(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. The case data still looks like it’s trying to break out of the grey area. We shall see.

MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection, not updated since 11/19, oddly after the big jump:

Now the data is down. I certainly hope that’s not because all the students have left for Thanksgiving, bringing the virus with them. That would be bad. Fortunately, our robust contact tracing system will be able to track that [hollow laughter].

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.

From CDC: “Community Profile Report November 12, 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties:

Minnesota and Indiana worse. Michigan and Massachusetts better. Missouri same. Maine worse. (Let’s hope those cases up in the County aren’t coming in from Quebec.) Fewer red specks in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Weird flare-ups, like flying coals in a forest fire. They land, catch, but — one hopes — sputter out.

The previous release:

Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile):

I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange. Note that Massachusetts is vertical. We detected a rise first in wastewater data, then in case data, now in hospitalizations. So there are times when the data is good. Just not all the time!

Death rate (Our World in Data):

Total: 796,420 794,952. Fiddling and diddling. But at this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.

Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid):

Hard to believe we have no excess deaths now, but very fortunate if so. (CDC explains there are data lags).

(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital.)

Covid cases in historic variant sources, with additions from the Brain Trust:

Brazil and Portugal rising, Chile and Peru slowing. Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.

* * *


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Mice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“The Knife Edge Election of 2020: American Politics Between Washington, Kabul, and Weimar” (PDF) [Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, Institute for New Economic Thinking]. From the magisterial full paper, teased here. “[E]very passing day suggests that the administration is failing to keep up with COVID’s mutations. Though it is spending a lot of money, when it assumed power, it failed to prioritize cheap, accessible tests open to anyone who needs them, left too much basic data gathering to scholars or the media, and made at best half-hearted pushes in favor of improved ventilation, air filters, and other obvious steps that would minimize indoor COVID problems, especially in schools. It also did essentially nothing to put reliable face masks in the hands of the population and failed even to set standards for advertising and sales of facemasks, leaving a vast market to charlatans. It still has no program in place for large scale random testing that can swiftly identify new variants and it has failed to create an effective national set of statistics with public dashboards anyone can access. Essentially it has staked everything on vaccines that will need regular, costly updates in a country with no national healthcare system. It is obvious that the administration’s hopes for an end to the COVID nightmare are premature.” • I’ve spent some time with the paper with a view toward posting on its detailed findings on 2020, but that paragraph leaped out. Worth contrasting performance — “Despite vaccines, the U.S. has lost more lives to Covid this year than last” — and promises. Biden, in debate: “And so folks, I will take care of this, I will end this, I will make sure we have a plan.” Ah well, nevertheless.

“The Ronald Reagan Guide to Joe Biden’s Political Future” [Jamelle Bouie, New York Times]. “As his first year in office comes to a close, an ambitious new president is on the decline. His legislative agenda has stalled in a fractious Congress. Voters are angry over inflation and other economic concerns, and he is struggling to find his footing on the world stage. Allies and critics say the president and his party have made a major misstep, mistaking their successful defeat of an incumbent president for a decisive mandate in favor of their program. The results have been a flagging approval rating, a disenchanted public and an opposition party with the wind at its back. If elections for Congress were held today, there’s no question that the president would lose out to the mounting backlash against his administration. What year is this? Not 2021, but 1981, and the president is Ronald Reagan, who at the end of his first year in office was described in exactly these terms.” More: “It is well known, among political scientists at least, that public opinion functions like a thermostat, in which voters try to adjust the temperature of policy when it moves too far in either direction…. The more ambitious a president is or appears to be, the stronger the thermostatic reaction against him.” • Maybe, though some might argue the idea that voters drive elections assumes facts not in evidence.

Democrats en Deshabille

Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community. (Note that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.

For an example of the class power that the PMC can wield, look no further than RussiaGate. All the working parts of the Democrat Party (“funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community”) fired on all cylinders to cripple an elected President; it was very effective, and went on for years. Now imagine that the same Party had worked, during Covid, to create an alternative narrative — see Ferguson et al., supra, to see what such a narrative might have looked like — and with the unions (especially teachers) involved, as they were not in RussiaGate. Who knows, they might even have held hearings or introduced legislation! At the very least, the Biden Administration would have had a “plan,” with the ground prepared for operationalizing it. At the best, a “parallel government” (Gene Sharp #198) would have emerged, ready to take power in 2020. Instead, all we got was [genuflects] Tony Fauci. And Cuomo and Newsom butchering their respective Blue States, of course. The difference? With RussiaGate, Democrats were preventing a President from governing. In my alternative scenario, they would have been preparing to govern themselves. Which they clearly do not want to do.

And while we’re at it: Think of the left’s programs, and lay them against the PMC’s interests. (1) Free College, even community college. Could devalue PMC credentials. Na ga happen. (2) MedicareForAll. Ends jobs guarantee for means-testing gatekeepers in government, profit-through-denial-of-care gatekeepers in the health insurance business, not to mention opposition from some medical guilds. Na ga happen. (3) Ending the empire (and reining in the national security state). The lights would go out all over Fairfax and Loudon counties. Na ga happen. These are all excellent policy goals. But let’s be clear that it’s not only billionaires who oppose them.

* * *

“The Problem of Political Despair” [Michelle Goldberg, New York Times]. “I look at the future and I see rule without recourse by people who either approve of terrorizing liberals or welcome those who do. Such an outcome isn’t inevitable; unforeseen events can reshape political coalitions. Something could happen to forestall the catastrophe bearing down on us. How much comfort you take from this depends on your disposition. Given the bleak trajectory of American politics, I worry about progressives retreating into private life to preserve their sanity, a retreat that will only hasten democracy’s decay. In order to get people to throw themselves into the fight to save this broken country, we need leaders who can convince them that they haven’t already lost.” • Maybe Hillary could get the band back on the road?

“Democrats are in denial about what they’re up against” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “The developing strategy seems to go something like this: First, the Wisconsin legislature districts are gerrymandered so it’s nearly impossible for Democrats to win. Next, Republicans seize control of the state electoral process, as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) has already suggested doing, even over Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ veto. Then, either they rig the voting process such that Democrats can’t win, or just award the state’s electoral votes to the Republican candidate directly. The basic idea here — handing out electoral votes through the legislature rather than after a vote — arguably wouldn’t even be ‘illegal,’ since the Electoral College clauses in the Constitution stipulate that electors are chosen “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Doing it over Evers’ veto, though, would definitely violate state law and Supreme Court precedent. More to the point, the tactic would be a grotesque violation of the very political principles of a democratic republic, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution.” • Not that I’m one to hold grudges, but I well remember the union-driven Wisconsin Capitol Occupation against Scott Walker in 2011 (well before Zucotti Park, too). Not a national Democrat lifted a finger to help. Nor did the national Democrats lift a finger to help during the 2012 recall election. And here we are! Cf. Gal 6:7. NOTE Not that a recall election was necessarily good strategy. But isn’t the Democrat Party supposed to be a big tent style-o-thing?

“The Pete Buttigieg Documentary Is an Empty Portrait of an Empty Politician” [Jacobin]. “Even by the usual standards of political hagiography, it’s a remarkably fluffy and inconsequential viewing experience — though, in Moss’s defense, it could hardly have been otherwise given the subject. The almost comical absence of program or ideology in a documentary about a man running for president has far more to do with Buttigieg himself than it does with quality of the filmmaking, and, albeit accidentally, Mayor Pete does tell us something very real about the way centrist liberalism increasingly seeks to cloak its pro-corporate vision with the politics of personality.” • Also describes Pete’s husband Chasten as “much more likable and human-seeming.” Seeming. Ouch. This episode of Chapo Trap House also covers the Buttigieg documentary (and Kamala Harris): Brutal, funny, and correct.

“Doctor Who Swabbed Cuomo Describes a Health Department in Shambles” [New York Times]. “For a stretch at the beginning of the pandemic, as cases skyrocketed, the governor’s office sent in an official [to the New York state Health Department] ‘who was very up front with us that he did not have public health experience’ to lead the department’s pandemic response. ‘He was a close individual to the governor who fixes situations,’ she said. The official, whose name is redacted in the report, insisted that the main state laboratory that was analyzing Covid tests in the pandemic’s early days, Wadsworth, report its results to the governor’s office before the test results were released to local health departments. This was inappropriate, Dr. Dufort said, both because she worried that it violated strict privacy provisions, and because it could delay getting the results to New York City and other counties. The senior health official in charge of data ran into the hall crying after getting the directive and was told she could quit if she disagreed, Dr. Dufort recalled.” •


“Dems are probably toast in 22” [Chris Arnade, Intellectual Int]. “How we highly education news obsessed Front row types think about politics is almost entirely divorced from how most people think about politics. Which is rarely. Most people in the Back row treat elections like most Front row people treat the NFL. As something in the background that doesn’t impact them. Sure they might tune into the Super Bowl, because everyone else does, but they don’t have a huge stake in it. Sure they might have a team they root for, but they are just watching, not playing. So why care too much. National politics rarely touches them, not in a dramatic way at least, beyond screwing them over. Like the roads still being all messed up, factories still closing, drugs still filling their town, and taxes still going up. Doesn’t matter who is in power. Bush, Clinton, Bush again, Obama. Their life keeps going on, mostly as a series of obstacles and dramas to overcome. So both parties are equally corrupt, equally indifferent to them, and largely inter-changeable. Same shit, different asshole. That is why the largest voting block in the country is non-voters.” • I think I prefer Arnade the pointillist to Arnade the generalist. There’s a lot that’s fresh and new in his photography and his walks. There is little that is new here. Front row/back row is an interesting heuristic, but no more. For one thing, it ignores the role of money, and those who deploy it.


“Trump poll tests his 2024 comeback map” [Politico]. “As Donald Trump builds out a presidential-campaign-in-waiting, his team is focusing on an electoral strategy that relies on recapturing the five states that flipped to Joe Biden in 2020. The five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — delivered a total of 73 electoral votes in 2020, enough to produce a decisive Electoral College victory for Biden. Since then, Trump has held four rallies, endorsed dozens of candidates and played a key role in shaping contests that could put his allies in top offices in those states in 2024. Trump’s shadow campaign also recently polled Trump-Biden matchups in the five states, all of which were decided in 2020 by fewer than 3 percentage points. According to the poll, a memo of which was obtained by POLITICO, the former president led Biden in Arizona by 8 percentage points, Georgia by 3 points, Michigan by 12 points, Pennsylvania by 6 points and Wisconsin by 10 points. The poll numbers send a message to those who think Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is loosening, said Tony Fabrizio, a top GOP pollster who conducted the surveys for Trump’s super PAC, ‘Make America Great Again, Again!'”


“Kyle Rittenhouse says he’s ‘not a racist person,’ supports Black Lives Matter” [Associated Press]. Not on my Bingo card, I must say. More: “‘I thought they came to the correct verdict because it wasn’t Kyle Rittenhouse on trial in Wisconsin — it was the right to self defense on trial,’ Rittenhouse said in the interview. ‘And if I was convicted… no one would ever be privileged to defend their life against attackers.'” • Rittenhouse has already learned to speak of himself in the third person. That young man will go far.

“Kyle Rittenhouse says fired lawyer John Pierce ‘set him up’ to pose with Proud Boys in Wisconsin bar and he had ‘no idea’ okay sign is associated with white supremacy, in latest acquittal interview with NewsNation” [Daily Mail]. “Rittenhouse insists he didn’t know the meaning of the ‘okay’ hand gesture, which he made as he was photographed standing alongside members of the Proud Boys at a bar in Wisconsin on January 5. ‘I didn’t know that the “okay” hand sign was a symbol for white supremacy – just as I didn’t know those people in the bar were Proud Boys,’ Rittenhouse says. The Illinois teen who was acquitted in the fatal shootings of two men and the wounding of a third during the Kenosha riots in August of last year says it was Pierce who set up the picture. The meetings ‘were set up by my former attorney who was fired because of that, for putting me in situations like that with people I don’t agree with,’ Rittenhouse told Ashleigh Banfield of NewsNation.” • Hilariously, Rittenhouse turns out to be — or adopts the protective coloration of — a RINO. (It may be that working with cray cray Lin Wood, as opposed to the real lawyer he eventually selected — or was hooked up with — concentrated Rittenhouse’s mind wonderfully. On the “OK sign”: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Symbol manipulators gotta symbol manipulate.

Our Famously Free Press

“CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC ignore NYT bombshell report on Hunter Biden’s business deal with Chinese company” [FOX News]. • Maybe Hunter wanted the cobalt for his paintings?


“Five Trump-Russia ‘Collusion’ Corrections We Need From the Media Now — Just for Starters” [Real Clear Investigations]. For example: “The Post and its sources fueled innuendo that Flynn had floated a payback for Russia’s alleged 2016 election help and lied to cover it up. Facing a barrage of anonymous officials contradicting him, Flynn walked back an initial denial and told the Post that ‘while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.’ Four days later, he was forced to resign. The following December, Special Counsel Mueller seemingly vindicated the Post’s narrative when Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, including about his discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Flynn would later backtrack and reverse that guilty plea, sparking a multi-year legal saga. When the transcripts of his calls with Kislyak were finally released in May 2020, they showed that Flynn had grounds to fight: It wasn’t Flynn who made a false statement about discussing sanctions with Kislyak; it was all nine of the Post’s sources — and, later, the Mueller team — who had misled the public. In all of Flynn’s multiple conversations with Kislyak in December 2016 and January 2017, the issue of sanctions only gets one fleeting mention – by Kislyak.” • Flynn’s firing was the opening gun.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Democrat NGOs:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to 199 thousand in the week ending November 20th, from a revised 270 thousand in the previous period and well below market expectations of 260 thousand. It was the lowest number since November 1969, amid strong demand for labor and ongoing economic rebound.”

Manufacturing: “United States Durable Goods Orders” [Trading Economics]. “New orders for US manufactured durable goods fell 0.5 percent month-over-month in October of 2021, after a 0.4 percent decrease in September and compared to market expectations of a 0.2 percent increase. Orders declined for transportation equipment (-2.6 percent), namely nondefense aircraft and parts (-14.5 percent) and defense aircraft and parts (-21.8 percent). Other declines were also seen in orders for computers and related products (-2.2 percent), nondefense capital goods (-1.2 percent) and machinery (-0.9 percent). Excluding defense, new orders climbed 0.8 percent and excluding transportation went up 0.5 percent, in line with forecasts. Meanwhile, orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose 0.6 percent, above forecasts of 0.5 percent.”

GDP: “United States GDP Growth Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The US economy expanded an annualized 2.1% on quarter in Q3 2021, slightly higher than 2% in the advance estimate, but below forecasts of 2.2%. Personal consumption increased more than initially expected (1.7% vs 1.6% in the advance estimate), mainly boosted by international travel, transportation services, and healthcare while spending on motor vehicles and parts declined. Private inventories added 2.13 percentage points to the growth (vs 2.07 percentage points in the advance estimate), led by wholesale trade (namely nondurable goods industries) and retail trade (namely motor vehicles and parts dealers). On the other hand, nonresidential investment rose less than in the advance estimate (1.5% vs 1.8%) and residential one shrank faster (-8.3% vs -7.7%). Meanwhile, net exports subtracted 1.16 percentage points from the growth (vs -1.14 percentage points in the advance estimate) as exports declined 3% (vs -2.5%) and imports surged 5.8% (vs 6.1%).”

Housing: “United States New Home Sales” [Trading Economics]. “New home sales in the US edged up 0.4% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 745K in October of 2021, following a downwardly revised 742K in September, and below market forecasts of 800K.”

Inflation: “United States Core Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index” [Trading Economics]. “Core PCE prices in the US which exclude food and energy increased 0.4% mom in October of 2021, in line with forecasts and higher than 0.2% in the previous month. The annual rate accelerated to 4.1% also in line with expectations.”

Consumer Sentiment: “United States Michigan Consumer Sentiment” [Trading Economics]. “The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment for the US was revised higher to 67.4 in November of 2021 from a preliminary of 66.8 and above market expectations of 66.9. It was still the lowest reading since November 2011. ….Consumers expressed less optimism in the November 2021 survey than any other time in the past decade about prospects for their own finances as well as for the overall economy. The decline was due to a combination of rapidly escalating inflation combined with the absence of federal policies that would effectively redress the inflationary damage to household budgets.” • That six hundred bucks Joe Biden owes me would come in handly just about now.

* * *

Commodities: “Fertilizer shortage may lead to spring scramble on North America’s farms” [Reuters]. “A global shortage of nitrogen fertilizer is driving prices to record levels, prompting North America’s farmers to delay purchases and raising the risk of a spring scramble to apply the crop nutrient before planting season…. In the United States, nitrogen fertilizer supplies are adequate for applications before winter, said Daren Coppock, CEO at U.S.-based Agricultural Retailers Association. Applying fertilizer before winter reduces farmers’ spring workload. But with prices so high, some farmers are delaying purchases, risking a scramble for supplies during their busiest time of year, Coppock said.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 64 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 82 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 23 at 1:05pm. Mere greed now.

Health Care

“A Breath of Virus-Free Air” [MedPage Today]. “In a hospital setting, however, most infection control protocols focus on contact transmission…. n March 2018, we embarked on a 3-year journey to test a theory: that mitigating the airborne transmission of viruses and bacteria is just as important as, or more important than, measures to reduce contact transmission. St. Mary’s Hospital for Children was the laboratory for this experiment. We had no idea at the time that we would soon find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. Three years later, the results are in: the deployment of advanced air purification measures significantly contributed to a 45% reduction in healthcare-associated infections, according to the study recently published in the Journal of Hospital Infection. If we extrapolate those results nationally, it could mean 765,000 fewer hospital infections each year. This study is novel. To our knowledge, it is one of the few studies — perhaps the only study — of an engineering solution to airborne disease transmission conducted in a real-world hospital setting with over 100,000 patient days. Many studies of indoor air quality are conducted in labs or rooms fabricated to mimic the real world. More real-world studies can only advance our knowledge of the most effective tools for air purification. As promising as these results are for hospitals, they also provide a blueprint for reducing the airborne transmission of diseases in other indoor settings such as schools, restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, nursing homes, and more.” • Important, because members of the (hidebound) hospital infection control often serve as gatekeepers for policy, and to this point have worked hard to prevent a paradigm shift to aerosol transmission.

The Biosphere

“Airbus A340 plane lands on Antarctica for first time” [CNN]. • Next, a Starbucks.

Sports Desk

“Former Pro Calls For “Investigation” After Another Football Player Suddenly Collapses” [Summit News]. • Quite a list from Berliner Zeitung.

Thanksgiving Prep

For that Uncle who’s into Crytpo:

A nation of snitches:

Class Warfare

Sympathy strike by the other unions at the Times?

News of the Wired

“What does an actor lose when their prosthetics become the star?” [New York Magazine]. “There’s an innate absurdity to acting. Prosthetics can bring that out — but they can also be a buffer, a protective veil between actor and audience. Olivier, who often sought out what he referred to as “the protective shelter of nose-putty,” recounted in his 1982 autobiography that when he was 16, a drama-and-voice teacher slid her finger down the center of his forehead until it rested on the top of his schnoz, where she informed him he had “weakness.” Whether she was diagnosing a deficiency in spirit or nasal contours, Olivier would spend the rest of his legendary career feeling relieved whenever a role allowed him to make additions to his face, so as to “avoid anything so embarrassing as self-representation.” Maybe that’s the real benefit to making yourself unrecognizable: It’s less an act of artistic devotion than one of self-protection — a way to go unseen even when you’re onscreen.”

“Science Fiction Is a Luddite Literature” [Cory Doctorow, OneZero]. “From 1811–1816, a secret society styling themselves “the Luddites” smashed textile machinery in the mills of England. Today, we use “Luddite” as a pejorative referring to backwards, anti-technology reactionaries. Proving that history really is written by the winners. In truth, the Luddites’ cause wasn’t the destruction of technology — no more than the Boston Tea Party’s cause was the elimination of tea, or Al Qaeda’s cause was the end of civilian aviation. Smashing looms and stocking frames was the Luddites’ tactic, not their goal. In truth, their goal was something closely related to science fiction: to challenge not the technology itself, but rather the social relations that governed its use.” • Hmm.

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Eduardo

    Travis McMicheal, his father, Greg McMichael, and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan were each convicted for murdering Arbery, who was unarmed, after pursuing him in February last year and claiming, without evidence, he had been involved in a spate of burglaries in their neighborhood.

    On Wednesday the jury returned unanimous decisions, convicted Travis McMichael, who opened fire on Arbery three times with a pump action shotgun, on all nine counts, including charges of malice and felony murder.

    Greg McMichael was convicted on eight of the nine counts including felony murder, and Bryan, who pursued Arbery in a separate vehicle and was not carrying a firearm, was convicted on six of nine counts, also including the charge of felony murder.
    Ahmaud Arbery verdict: three men found guilty of murdering Black man as he jogged

    1. Andy

      And while you’re watching the interview keep in mind that he was very likely coached on what to say by his legal team.

      1. Vlade

        As is every defendant. You really think that the two lawyers he damned instructed him to say that? That makes a lot of sense.

        Astounded at the total media blackout on Darrell Brooks who is the poster child for what’s wrong with the American judicial system. Don Chisholm, the alleged prosecutor in Milwaukee has the blood on his hands of over 50 people and that of dead children for his ideological incompetence, after releasing a four page rap sheet loose on $500 bail.

        1. Andy

          As is every defendant. You really think that the two lawyers he damned instructed him to say that? That makes a lot of sense.

          It makes more sense than Rittenhouse’s post-trial image, which portrays him as a clean cut boy scout who loves BLM and respects the right to peaceful protest. You don’t think that’s laying it on a bit thick given what is known about the guy and his politics?

          Hanging out with the Proud Boys, a photo-op with Trump, supporting Blue Lives Matter, showing up at a protest with his AR15 to “defend” a car dealership he has no connection to but, hey, he’s really a BLM loving liberal because he said so on Carlson’s show. Give me a break.

          It’s kind of amazing how pointing out right wing influence and duplicity has almost become a taboo. Any criticism of Tucker Carlson, Fox News, Trump and rw media talking points is more often than not met with snarky pouting. The right wing has had great success getting in under the radar and presenting itself as the side of logical thinking and common sense.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > It’s kind of amazing how pointing out right wing influence and duplicity has almost become a taboo.

            Except universally in the Times, WaPo, MSNBC, CNN, numerous cable shows, numerous talk shows… Dude, come on.

            I don’t trust any of the “reporting” on Rittenhouse, because it’s all motivated (though you have to congratulate the liberal sources that somehow managed to convey the idea that Rittenhouse’s victims were Black without ever saying it).

            I think the interesting question is what Rittenhouse will become. Nineteen, after all, is very young (even having gone through crucible of a national court case — and two lawyers, one cray cray, one not — it’s still young). Personally, I hope for his own sake he returns to a life of obscurity.

            What I want to know is who hooked him up with the non-cray cray lawyer? That would seem to me to be a useful thread to pluck, to see what direction his political affilations may lead him. Because he didn’t stick with Lin Wood.

            1. Basil Pesto

              I think the interesting question is what Rittenhouse will become.

              my money’s on syndicated talk radio host ?

            2. Andy

              Sorry, I wasn’t very clear. I meant that criticizing the right has become a touchy subject in conversations and in online forums. The Times, WaPo, MSNBC, CNN are highly partisan and basically function as the Democrats media arm and their reporting on culture war issues has to viewed through that lens.

              But I do think that anger at the liberal establishment, which I agree is justified, has let the right pass itself off as the reasonable, objective and non-partisan side and this has made the influence of right-adjacent media and personalities seem much less acute. The fact that right media isn’t as openly wedded to the GOP as left media is wedded to the Democrats is another reason for this.

              So things like the increasing crossover between right wing so-called populists and neocons and the influence of figures like Steve Bannon tend to stay under the radar.

              As for Rittenhouse, yeah he’s a pawn to a certain extent and being used to make the “anti-woke” pro-gun, law and order ideology of the right more palatable to people who aren’t automatically on board with this stuff. But he’s still young so writing him off as a monster isn’t fair. (Though asking how a black, BLM-supporting kid in his situation would have been treated by law enforcement and the justice system is valid.)

    2. Soredemos

      The coverage of the Rittenhouse case ranks up there with WMDs and Russigate in terms of how not just worthless, but actively deceitful the coverage was. Obviously the stakes were far lower with Rittenhouse than with those other two cases, but the amount of manipulation was as bad as anything from the other two. The media was actively dis-informing people, both by explicit lies and by burying key facts to sell a thoroughly fraudulent narrative.

      I didn’t pay much attention to the case until it was all over, because I was being led to believe it was just another case of some right-wing goon killing black people. I literally didn’t even know that none of the three people shot were black. And I’m not alone in that ignorance; I was catching up on recent episodes of the West Wing Thing, and I’m pretty sure that Dave Anthony as recently as a few weeks ago didn’t know they weren’t black either (he was opining that the judge wouldn’t allow the word ‘victims’ to be used for the deceased, but would allow terms like ‘arsonists’, because he wasn’t allowed to go as far as using the ‘N-word’).

      And the way the media just manufactured dumb talking point soundbites, and how huge numbers of talking heads immediately jumped on board, is breathtaking, even to someone as deeply cynical as I am. ‘He crossed state lines’. Yes, because he lived a mile from the state border. What is this, Soviet America? Do we need inter-state visas to travel now? ‘He had no connection to Kenosha’. Well, other than that he had family living there, and a job in Kenosha country as a lifeguard. ‘His mom drove him.’ Nope. ‘The gun was owned illegally’. No, it wasn’t. And so on and so forth. Almost nothing about this case as the media portrayed it was true.

      At one point I was even led to believe that the whole incident started because of a misunderstanding: someone fired a gun, people believed Rittenhouse had fired, and so they started chasing the guy conspicuously holding a rifle. But, no, even that isn’t true: Ziminski fired his pistol into the air *after* Rosenbaum was already chasing Rittenhouse. Also, the third guy who was shot, Grosskreutz, was only shot after he drew a gun on Rittenhouse. Grosskreutz literally admitted this under oath in court, then went on media the next day and lied about this, and was simply allowed to get away with it in the media.

      An amazing thing about this whole story is that there is no room for he-said, she-said. There’s extensive video documentation of every aspect of the story. Rittenhouse went to Kenosha to help people, which is exactly what he did. We have video of him being a medic, and we have video of him helping to put out arson fires. He brought the gun for a combination of self-protection and to prevent further property damage. You can poo-poo his desire to stop vandalism (ask the people whose livelihoods got burned down if they think it isn’t a big deal though), or say he was a fool for bringing the gun; I don’t really disagree that he was an idiot, however well intentioned. But he absolutely didn’t go looking for a fight, and went out of his way to try and flee from confrontations. And if he’s guilty for bringing the rifle, what about the multiple other people that night who were walking around with pistols?

      1. Eric377

        I live in Wisconsin but not Kenosha. It was very well understood that everyone was white from the first days.

      2. Falls City Beer

        But no one sees the madness of a 17 year old kid—yes, child—roaming the violence-and-destruction-strewn streets of Kenosha with a military weapon? Our media is disgusting and the angles are either stupid or trolling, but surely there can be some consensus that 17 year old kids shouldn’t be armed and roaming riotous streets.

      1. Basil Pesto

        Is Summit News suggesting that the cause of these collapses is the vaccine? weird flex when you consider that lots and lots of footballers in Europe have been infected with Covid on account of The Show Must Go On.

        I even brought attention to the case of Sergio Aguero
        here a month or so ago: it was reported he would be out for months due to a detected heart issue. What was unmentioned in that reporting despite the fairly strong evidentiary basis informing us re: Covid’s various sequelae including heart issues, was that he was battling a covid infection in February this year.

        The problem with glossing over the latter fact in stories like this – and I’ve made the point that football clubs will be desperate to downplay long covid for the sake of protecting their assets (ie players) in a ludicrously overvalued transfer market – is that in failing to reckon at all with the most plausible
        cause of these injuries and collapses – Covid infection itself – you open the way for speculation and assumption from the usual suspects that it’s actually the work of the Nefarious Vaccines. Maybe, but way more evidence required, especially when there’s another, more plausible

        1. norm de plume

          Where will we get the evidence from Basil? The authorities? From VAERS? Will it include data from the first 14 days after each jab? If it does not cover the period when the vast majority of vaccine reactions occur, what would be the point?
          Surely where there is this much smoke there is probably a fire underneath it?

          1. FluffytheObeseCat

            “Where will we get the evidence from Basil”

            Not from the seething conspiracist Twitter thread, biased Substack blog, and sports scandal sheet you just linked to, that’s for sure. These 3 opinion pieces are proof of the overwhelming prevalence of garbage online. Nothing more.

            Remember, it’s the Naked Capitalism comment section. There’s always someone who’ll actual click your links and read them carefully.

            1. norm de plume

              Oh all right then, I will only get my info from ‘trusted sources’ from now on. No misinformation there.

              I am more interested in playing the ball than the man, the information not the provenance. If the MSM evinced any interest in weighing up arguments and evidence contra the Narrative that’s where I would look, but journalism now is part of, rather than an independent counterweight to, establishment power.
              You can only take information from where it exists.

              If there is indeed a spike in the deaths of young athletes and it is found that the statistical difference can be accounted for only by factoring in the vaccines I am not very confident of that fact becoming generally understood. The media, unlike say 50 years ago, would play spoiler rather than amplifier.

              Seems an important issue; why doesn’t some thrusting young ace reporter in the MSM get into the story like a dog with a bone? It’s a good question I think but you don’t need to think very hard about the answer. They might find what they’re looking for.

              You can’t assess the veracity of the curated mainstream offerings and place them in an appropriate context without stepping outside the mainstream occasionally. Basil mentions above that there may be some ‘glossing over’ of facts out on the fringes. That may be so, indeed it certainly is, but to ignore the industrial strength glossing over practiced by the authorities in the last 18 months (to the extent of silencing decorated but dissenting experts with threats of deregistration and deplatforming) lacks an appreciation of the fact that in these times ALL news and opinions must be regarded with some initial suspicion.

              So your wariness of alternative news sources is entirely appropriate, but your instant dismissal of them is not. My trust levels have dropped alarmingly but most precipitously with journalism, or more accurately ‘journalism’. I have my guard up everywhere I go, including here.

              If you are hungry but your usual staple fare no longer provides the nutrients you need, you have to forage further afield, keeping your eyes peeled. I am not sure if the story is true, but I am damn sure the MSM won’t tell me if it is, at least not without dragging their feet for six months.

              1. Basil Pesto

                meh, fair enough in the broad strokes I suppose but a heuristic of “I’m only going to trust the ASM because it’s not the MSM” is asinine, especially when it’s clear from reading a few paragraphs of the three articles you link to that they are all misinformed about covid, engage in trivial analysis, have an axe to grind, and are not to be trusted or taken seriously, and can therefore be safely ignored. Sounds quite a lot like the MSM to me. While the failure of the ~MSM~ to join the long covid dots with respect to covid infection and subsequent illness of athletes to date is certainly a failure, the fact remains that there is so much good research about Long Covid, its pathology and its prevalence – some of it even *gasp* reported in the mainstream media – that it remains a far more likely explanation of this worrying trend in athletes than vaccine adverse reactions. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” doesn’t really work when the smoke can in fact easily be explained by the raging bonfire right in front of us.

          2. Count Zero

            “Surely where there is this much smoke there is probably a fire underneath it?”

            But on that basis does every false media-constructed state-sponsored rumour have some underlying truth? So there really were “weapons of mass destruction”in Iraq? Jeremy Corbyn deep down — despite all the evidence to the contrary — really was an anti-Semite? And Russiagate? And flying saucers? And witches? And….

            1. norm de plume

              Oh for goodness sake.

              I knew there was no WMD in 2002 and took part in the march on 15 Feb 2003. I also knew Corbyn was kneecapped by his own party as Sanders was. And I know in my bones that the twin attack of censorship and propaganda of the last 2 years is also in the service of propping up establishment-friendly lies.

              The commonality these ‘projects’ share is that they were prosecuted by the corporate owned MSM, not the fringes. While that distinction must be made I reiterate the need for all information to be treated with a degree of suspicion regardless of source. Slick, professional centrist bullshit is still bullshit and far more likely to influence the masses than the outer regions. Demonstrably.

              A lot of people seem to have an admirable propensity for granular analysis and criticism of the less ‘respectable’ and ‘trusted’ news and opinion sources (possibly influenced by ‘fact checking’ concerns affiliated with Pharma and the NGOs) but a comparatively withered capacity to approach the mainstream with the same rigour.

              And Basil, your notion that many of the additional athlete deaths and reactions are more likely from Long Covid (an idea no more or less plausible than the vaccines and equally under-investigated) could I suppose be true. So why don’t we find out? Not you and me of course, we don’t have the resources and expertise. Who does?

              That’s right, the mainstream media.

        2. saywhat?

          I’ve had Covid myself and I did suffer some very troubling heart inflammation from it (I was and still am unvaccinated).

          But I was at peak weight (37 lbs over my ideal weight of 185), drinking about a bottle of red wine a day and not exercising. Also, my blood pressure was typically 160/100 and I’m three score and ten (70) years old.

          So no surprise that I was affected severely by Covid, having significant co-morbidities.

          But I’m a far cry from young, world-class athletes, typically with no co-morbidities, dropping dead on the playing field.

          Also, bear in mind that the virus enters through the nose and might go no further while the spike generating “vaccines” are injected, sometimes, due to poor technique, directly into a blood vessel. And the spike alone is sufficient to damage the body, including the circulatory system.

  2. gc54

    Interesting open-access econometric model of the energy transition to renewables, AKA (here) “The Jackpot”.

    “The results show that, in a business-as-usual context, a complete energy transition on a global scale is unachievable before the end of the century. The reason lies in the increasing capital needs of the energy sector, which slows, if not stops, economic growth and the energy transition. A complete transition can be achieved by 2070 provided that (i) energy demand is kept under control at its current level, (ii) a sufficient rate of capital growth is sustained (above its historical level), and (iii) substantial progress is made in terms of energy efficiency. However, this strategy requires a significant increase in the savings rate, with a negative impact on consumption, which ends up stagnating at the end of the transition.”

    Usual economic graphology but at least considers EROI.

  3. Robert Hahl

    Re: Luddites “These new machines could have allowed the existing workforce to produce far more cloth, in far fewer hours, at a much lower price, while still paying these workers well (the lower per-unit cost of finished cloth would be offset by the higher sales volume, and that volume could be produced in fewer hours).

    “Instead, the owners of the factories — whose fortunes had been built on the labor of textile workers — chose to employ fewer workers, working the same long hours as before, at a lower rate than before, and pocketed the substantial savings.

    Modern users of the term “Luddite” know that owners of new technologies will eliminate jobs, and the displaced workers will have to find new ones. They don’t care. I basically agree because so many of those are not good for the workers, e.g., toll taker, eliminated by EZPass.

    Seems quite here today. How about a ballad. Amazing guitar player.

    Chuck Pyle – Here Comes the Water

    1. RockHard

      “Science Fiction Is a Luddite Literature” in particular “In truth, their goal was something closely related to science fiction: to challenge not the technology itself, but rather the social relations that governed its use.”

      I read something a number of years back about the Amish. It claimed that the Amish aren’t anti-technology, they accept a technology after they assess what effect it will have on their community. So telephones are frowned upon because they remove face-to-face communication, but a washing machine is fine, it’s a useful time and labor saving device.

      “What would that lead to?” another Amish man asked me. “We don’t want to be the kind of people who will interrupt a conversation at home to answer a telephone. It’s not just how you use the technology that concerns us. We’re also concerned about what kind of person you become when you use it.”

    2. The Rev Kev

      There was a repeat of this exercise in about 1830 with the Swing Riots. The problem for the workers was that the work that the machines were doing was what they use to do. And what they were paid for that work was used to keep them going over the cold winter when there was little other work to do which left them vulnerable to hunger for them and their families. That left them with only the option of parish relief but the people that decided whether they could get relief were the Poor law Guardians who were made up of the local priesthood, the local gentry and the big landowners who could be parsimonious in the extreme and who would use their post to settle grudges such as the person not attending church regularly-


      1. Count Zero

        Yes that’s all relevant and the article and the comments on the Luddites are spot on. And I like the Amish comment:

        “It’s not just how you use the technology that concerns us. We’re also concerned about what kind of person you become when you use it.”

        But there’s a danger in centring on technology as the key instrument of social change. It’s human activity that transforms social relations, sometimes using technology adapted for that purpose but sometimes merely restructuring work or civil society — & without technology having a great deal to do with it. The massive restructuring of social relations and the redistribution of wealth upwards in the US and the UK since the 1980s has been a huge and successful project involving tens of thousands of agents. There was some role for technologies in this process but it was not driven by technology. It was driven by a politics and by a class of mentally-deranged owners of capital who wanted MORE.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          A technology which allows humans to do something they would have done before if they could have, but didn’t because they couldn’t; should be considered very important in the social changes which that technology allowed and encouraged people to pursue.

          An example I see often cited is Eli Whitney’s cotton engine ( cotton gin). Before its invention, de-seeding cotton was so slow and tedious that it was not considered as one of the major crops to subject slaves to working with. In this tale ( a true tale?) I have read that slavery itself was slowly reducing in importance in this country and even some slavers were considering allowing the practice to sunset. After its invention, cotton was so easy to force slaves to de-seed, and hence made so lucrative to force slaves to grow, that slavery itself was given a new sunrise relevance and slavers and slaverists felt incentivised to re-expand and harden the practice.

          Is this tale considered a reality-based understanding of the role of a technology in driving human-social-practice evolution in a new direction?

  4. Carolinian

    Re Olivier–of course he was a handsome guy…what Orson Welles called a “king actor” (Welles called himself that). Perhaps the fake body parts were to disguise the matinee idol. The cliche used to be that Olivier was an “outside in” actor in the English tradition as opposed to American method actors. For an American version of Olivier see Streep (acting technique wise, not stature wise).

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Forgive the oft-told tale (or legend) but it’s relevant to the “outside in/inside out” question in acting: while filming the thriller Marathon Man in the 1970’s, Dustin Hoffman reputedly went sleepless for several nights before shooting a torture scene, so as to appear suitably haggard and broken-down on camera. Observing Hoffman’s pitiful state, Olivier quipped, “My dear young man, why don’t you try acting? It’s so much easier.”

      If it’s not true, it should be…

  5. Jason Boxman

    In typical shameless fashion, Republicans justify their aggression by convincing themselves that liberals are engaged in some kind of Marxist-critical race theorist plot to overthrow democracy so that they have an excuse to do the same thing preemptively. (It’s the Big Lie turned into an entire political philosophy — if we lose, it’s because the other side cheated.)

    Russiagate anyone? And unlike conservatives, liberal Democrats had the willing participation of the beloved national security state.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Republicans have several trillion dollars worth of spin mills and steady donors. And monopoly control of many formal and aboveground levers of political power in many states. And the Supreme Court.

      Russiagate doesn’t cancel Capitol Riotgate. And voter suppressiongate. And just because the DemParty leadership itself does not care about voter suppressiongate does not mean that voter suppressiongate is not a problem.

      To think that something is not actually happening or is not a problem just because the DemParty says it is . . . is a sign of Democrat Derangement Syndrome.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns.

    1. fresno dan

      November 24, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      When the transcripts of his calls with Kislyak were finally released in May 2020, they showed that Flynn had grounds to fight: It wasn’t Flynn who made a false statement about discussing sanctions with Kislyak; it was all nine of the Post’s sources — and, later, the Mueller team — who had misled the public.
      It really was a conspiracy against Trump. People tell me I’m a half empty kind of guy (a glass half full is ALSO half empty – that is just a fact) – so I guess I should be happy that FINALLY reality is being acknowledged. But there sure seems to me precious little consequence to widespread despicable conduct among the highest members of the Federal government…

  6. Louis Fyne

    oh dear…studying purified indoor is the cutting edge of medical research? i thought it was a given as indoor air pollution has been known for decades.

    particularly as hospitals have the holy trinity of bad air….(a) VOCs and other contaminants (volatile organic compounds) from all the office equipment, new plastics, etc, (b) sealed windows, and (c) sick people

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, now we know it isn’t. And it even more isn’t when the CDC, Fauci, WHO,etc. are actively conspiring to suppress that knowledge as hard as they can, in order to spread covid to every single person in the world.


    Are those Persian Shields in the plant picture? I have more success with those in the front yard than just about any other plant I’ve put there.

    1. johnnyme

      I believe so. The public garden where I do all of my plantidoting only labels a few of their specimens and this one was unlabelled. :(

  8. allan

    Centrist Dems sink Biden’s nominee for top bank regulator [Axios]

    Five Democratic senators have told the White House they won’t support Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, effectively killing her nomination for the powerful bank-regulator position.

    Why it matters: The defiant opposition from a broad coalition of senators reflects the real policy concerns they had with Omarova, a Cornell University law professor who’s attracted controversy for her academic writings about hemming in big banks. …

    In phone call on Wednesday, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Banking Committee, told Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — the panel’s chairman — of their opposition.

    They’re joined in opposing her by Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). …

    I’m old enough to remember when Tester was marketed as an organic farmer from Big Sandy, MT.
    For some years now his office has been operating as a hot-sheet hotel for Wall Street,
    under the guise of fighting for `community banks’ struggling under the weight of onerous regulation.
    For every voter we lose in rural Montana, we’ll pick up two in Tribeca…

  9. Andrew Watts

    RE: The Pete Buttigieg Documentary Is an Empty Portrait of an Empty Politician

    Politicians like Pete Buttigieg are more dangerous than Donald Trump ever could be. These kind of politicians approach politics as a vanity project whose sole purpose is self-promotion. The difference between the two is that people actually want Trump to represent them. The eventual effect of having pols like Buttigieg foisted onto the electorate will eventually convince voters that the federal government is mired in corruption and beyond repair. That’s when America as a political project will enter it’s death throes.

    If you can’t imagine the end of the United States then you weren’t paying attention during the early stages of the COVID pandemic. Federalism almost immediately began to break down as States bid against each other for medical supplies while the feds seized PPE on the barest of legal pretexts only added to the chaos. The disruption of normalcy caused the forming of regional blocs which look like a good approximation of the successor states that would emerge in the former United States.

      1. KLG

        Perfect! I’ll never again be able to think of Mayo Pete without hearing John backed up so well by Paul and George. Not that I think of him very much as it is.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Could any of the “shadow groups” of states which ghost-emerged during the early covid chaos be considered to be ” Blue Blocs” of states?

      If so, those are the states whose people should start working together to form separate survival interstate groupings to craft the beginnings of separate survival lifeboat economies in case the only survival possible becomes separate survival

      1. Andrew Watts

        Maybe in the specific case of the Western States Pact, but Hawaii didn’t join due to the decision of their governor. I consider a red state like Idaho as an unofficial member. Especially considering the unofficial cooperation between state health authorities and the number of people from that state who ended up in Oregon/Washington’s hospitals.

        The Midwest Governors Regional Pact united a good number of regional states with a few red states like Iowa not officially joining. Once again due to the decision of their governor, but I doubt it’d be the same in any other crisis where federalism breaks down.

    2. sharron

      The states had to step up and compete against each other because Trump said he wasn’t a buying service.

  10. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Democrat NGOs

    The IdPols are apologizing for arithmetic now?!?! I humbly volunteer to end the handwringing and bring the average down to a more acceptable total by donating $0.00

  11. Andrew Watts

    RE: The Problem of Political Despair

    Hah, it’s 2021 and the NY Times has discovered that representative government is neither democratic or capable of expressing the popular will through policy. Maybe bourgeois democracy isn’t a worthwhile project to defend for the majority of the working classes.

    Anyway, liberals aren’t exactly helping the situation any and they need to own up to it. Attempting to codify Hillary’s deplorables speech into state policy for how the non-vaccinated will be treated is a terrible idea. I guess it’s a good thing that liberalism isn’t an efficient force throughout history.

    1. ambrit

      I’m waiting for someone to suggest that the Unvaccinated be forced to wear Scarlet ‘U’s or perhaps, Yellow Stars, so as to identify them in public. It’s coming.

      1. marym

        That would be terrible, everything about this blaming and shaming is terrible, but anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers have already been parading around with yellow stars to bemoan their oppression, as if it’s a badge of honor.

        1. Noone from Nowheresville

          @marym I personally dislike where I end up if I take bemoan their oppression as if it’s a badge of honor road.

          e.g., what happens in this extreme low-trust high-stress environment if / when one of the front-row-kids (sorry, Lambert) decides to storycraft the shaming and blaming of the anti-maskers who have received Covid drug jabs in the arm?

          It’s a pretty easy twist regardless of whether or not one believes it will ever come to pass.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > the front-row-kids (sorry, Lambert)

            No need to apologize. It’s a useful distinction if not taken too far. But isn’t the front row/back row distinction one that a front-row kid, however much an expatriate front row kid, would make?

            1. Noone from Nowheresville

              It sure is. But the world really does feel like high school power dynamics. Which admittedly aren’t really truly encompassed by front-row and back-row kids terms, especially when Arnade uses back-row-kids to designate people who are part of the sacrifice zones Chris Hedges talks about. After a while it feels like empathy porn.

              e.g., I’ve never seen Arnade talk to someone who’d be a non-sacrifice zone back-row-kid like the small business owner, former wage worker / union stewart in Michigan who could express himself and issues in front-row-kid language. Admittedly I could have easily missed it.

              I actually prefer Vorlons (order) & Shadows (chaos). The Old Ones guiding the lesser / younger races who must choose one side or the other. Of course once you lose the Old Ones, then one is left with the minions who don’t show the same rules based game restraint.

              Front-row-kids is a term I can use where I’m not forced to choose a side and I can go beyond US political teams’ storycraft. It’s a global game after all. I also like it because it implies for good or bad that there are no real adults in the room. Back-row-kids is much much more problematic for me, especially with its lack of agency and nuance for the vast majority of people who would be stuffed into the label.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > But the world really does feel like high school power dynamics

                That’s often been said of DC. But I don’t think high school power dynamics are a good representation for many important power dynamics, prominent among them the wage relation, but also, say, political campaigns, international banking, financial fraud, war….

          2. marym

            There are serious issues about health, safety, government control , and individual rights regarding many aspects of the pandemic. Some are complex issues which don’t entirely have yes/no answers. However, in my opinion, masking isn’t one of them. People refusing to do this simple thing are neither martyrs resisting oppression nor superior beings who’ve earned the privilege not to mask. There’s been enough information available for a long enough time, despite the general fog of misinformation, for people to take on this responsibility whatever row they sit in.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Masking or not is different than being vaccinated or not. The “anti-mask freedom movement” is simply trying to put a pretty face on its evil and hateful Typhoid MAGA Jonestown Trumpanon germ-spreading agenda. Stockhold syndrome-afflicted Trumpanon apologists may try to blame the Democrats and the Fauci for the Jonestown Trumpanons’ deep and vicious evil, but I am not having it.

  12. The Rev Kev

    ‘Somewhere this Thursday, a guy is gonna brag over a dinner spread about how he got into the Capitol and never got caught, and his nieces and nephews are gonna turn him into the FBI, and the desserts are gonna be delicious’

    Snitchers are always ever present. The real problem is when you give them financial incentives to be snitches like happened in Texas with abortion. If some group know that they can get paid good money by denouncing them to the authorities that’s when the real trouble starts, especially if they can be anonymous in doing so. East Germany’s Stasi was mostly one big snitch operation and up to a sixth of the population were caught up in it. In Israel, they will tell Palestinians that yes, their uncle can get that life-saving operation – so long as they snitch for them. In the ancient world, a snitch would denounce a fellow citizen and the State would confiscate that person’s property and give that snitch a part of the proceeds. Come to think of it, there is a good book waiting to be written about the topic of snitches.

    1. JBird4049

      >>>The real problem is when you give them financial incentives to be snitches like happened in Texas with abortion.

      PBS Frontline “Snitch” #1709

      BOB CLARK: [laughs] Do I feel that snitches lie? Only when their mouth is moving. You know, if they’re asleep, most of the time they don’t, but- oh, they’ll say anything. They’re prostitutes. I mean it is- I don’t know how you could run a criminal justice system without the use of informants, but at the same time, it allows itself for such abuse. I mean absolutely unbelievable abuse.

      Then there are the various federal law enforcement agencies paying informants to commit or encourage crimes.

      I can also go historical by using the witch trials. Witch hunts were often strengthen by the property the accusers would get after the almost inevitable successful trial and conviction; the accused were very often vulnerable being usually older, isolated, even disliked individuals, almost always with a bit of wealth. That usually meant women, but men as well were accused for those reasons.

      This was not true for all “witches,” but the correlation between being vulnerable person with some wealth, even if just a very small farm, with being accused of witchcraft is there. So, while the initial accusation might have been an honest, if inaccurate, one once the money started to be paid out…

      Then there was the fact that the accused would often say and accuse anyone to end the torture.

      The problems of using snitches, like with torture, are very well documented with writings on them going back a long, long time, but “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” (Upton Sinclair)

  13. rowlf

    Wow. Channel 46 Atlanta just had a news story on volunteers in a Vitamin I and other covid treatments study. I couldn’t find it on their website. (Weird that the Vitamin I medicine labels used in the news story were the same yellow/red colors as the off label stable product packaging from Durvet .) I also think it was a canned/networked story.

    I get a kick out of local news, like when a CDC official in a local interview recommend Vitamin D3 or the news story of covid sniffing dogs being used to screen marathon participants.

    Fun to see stuff leak out around the media edges.

  14. sharron

    The states had to step up and compete against each other because Trump said he wasn’t a buying service.

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